Monday, July 30, 2007

Day tripping

On Monday, I sweated it out in the humidity to take some pictures for an application I was working on. It was so humid that even the rocks were moist and dewy. Thanks to the abundance of rain and overbearing humidity, there's oodles of mushrooms around. I never took a shroom id class so I have no idea what any of these are.
Looks like smurf village here. No sign of smurfs. And I CAN find my way back there.

Inquiring minds

Inquiring minds want to know if red spotted newts bite. My answer is no. I mean I'm sure they bite in order to eat but I have never encountered a newt, salamander, frog, or toad that bit me. I would be concerned about the toxins that they exude but as long as you wash your hands after handling these critters you should be fine. Now you should be concerned about hellbenders and other gigantic salamanders. See the one species from Japan. And yes it's real and it is a salamander.

The dark side

I know some of you think my job is just frolicing outside with cute baby animals. Well that's not true. About half my time is doing office work and going to meetings. That means I have a lot of multi-tasking. I have several supervisors who each think their projects should be my #1 priority. Then throw in their supervisors who periodically come to me with an urgent project. They all can't be #1 so that's fun. Then there's those clients that are a psychologist's dream, which I have to manage as well.

There's one client who is above and beyond all others. Let's call him Dom. Dom is notorious not only in my office but throughout the industry. The word lunatic is often used to describe him and it seems like everyone has a jaw dropping story/incident about him. Dom likes to curse and scream up a storm (so much so it's comical because you are thinking "this can't be real" or "he's going to stroke out or have a heart attack"), answer calls during meetings and curse the caller out, do the blackberry thing during meetings, hang up on you whenever things are not going his way, not pay any attention at meetings but afterwards yell at you because he's all knowledgeable, call all women "dear", "honey" or "sweetie", call people pudgy to their face, not remember your name, and of course not pay us. I am fully convinced that he has ADD and is a gemini. Oh and Dom likes to look everyone up and and women. Weird. He's fired our company more than once but he always comes back. But there's his other side. Dom can be very very charming when he wants to be. I'm pretty sure Dom thinks he's the second coming of George Clooney...looks and charm. That and he can have any woman.

I had a meeting last week with supervisor, Dom, and his two minions. I unfortunately had to lead the meeting since I was the most knowledgeable about the issues and the site. I also had to sit next to Dom since no one wanted to sit there. Sigh...but I'm not one to back down. I also thought that I could make sure he pays attention. Things started well and then Dom randomly goes "You have such a flat stomach. Everyone look at her stomach." Mind you I am not wearing a painted on spandex half shirt. It's a normal fitted t-shirt. And I most certainly do not have abs of steel. More like a one-pack. I brush him off by saying that next time I'll be sure and wear those sympathy pregnancy bellies so as to not distract him. Later he goes "You should marry some rich guy so you wouldn't have to work." and then he asks one of the two forbidden questions "How old are you?" I make him guess and he's says 24 (I'm not even in the 20's range so I don't know if that's a compliment or insult). He then wants to know where I live (I evade but he now knows I live like in the next town over) and if I like to hike on my downtime (duh yes - which elicits a frowny face from Dom). He says I should wear heels and he doesn't like my flat mod shoes. The real meeting finally ends with only one screaming and cursing side phone call. Then Dom wants to know what music I listen to. He loves Nickelback. I do not share his opinion. He has his minion pull out their iphone and play some mysogyinist rap song that he was repeatedly quoting...something about double d's. I can't remember what it was since I was so fixated on the iphone and making the screen rotate. He says I should stop by and I got the feeling he was trying to set me up with someone..who I'm sure is equally as fabulous as him. Cuz y'know we have so much him common. Did I mention that he's obsessed with all things related to money...drives a fancy car, lives in a castle sized house, has a personal buyer at said designer clothing stores, etc.? Yeah. He then says he likes my bag. I just smiled and said that it was from Target.

At the end of this week is some magical date for Dom. He's been waiting for this day before he takes another step in this one big project. I swear he's been to an astrologist since it was so random. This date will mean that I will be subject to more meetings and lovely phone calls. So I hope all of you send me good vibes at the end of this week. I'll need some restraint not to strangle Dom. Serenity now.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Squirrels, tomatoes, and zip drives oh my!

No exciting field work or adventures to report. Hopefully next week I'll have something of interest to report.

I found out that the baby squirrel is the culprit of all the recent and daily birdfeeder traumas. So it's off my nice list and joins the rest of the obese naughty squirrel gang on my naughty list. The naughty squirrels have also been sampling my green tomatoes. They take one bite, decide they hate it and leave it on the deck. Then they try another.

But at least the tomatoes are plentiful so it's not the end of the world.

Basil plant is doing quite well considering the constant digging by the squirrels.

In computer nerd news, I dug up my old external zip drive. Remember those before you could burn cds? I had put a bunch of pictures on zip disks back in California. I thought I could hook it up to my new laptop and burn all those pics to a CD. Nope. New laptop does not have a parellel interface or whatever you call it. Y'know in the olden days how you would hook up a printer and then turn those two knobs to connect it. I bought a converter but it's not the right size so I'm off to try again. Sigh. I really don't know what I'll do if I can find the right converter.

Monday, July 23, 2007

RIP bagel eating sheep

Looks like another farm in my home time is about to bite the dust. A few months ago a homemade sign was up that said the 20 acre farm was for sale. Not soon after, the sign was gone and the sheep were gone. Then they had an estate sale. Now it's vacant. Before all this went down, I saw the telltale signs...wetlands flagged, various stakes in the ground, and test pits being dug. But I brushed it off saying that no one would buy it since the housing market was tanking. But I'm sure there's going to be like 20+ McMansions that will fall from the sky any minute. Sigh. It sucks that my home town is possibly one of the richest in the state and country, but there's no interest to preserve the few remaining farms. I guess they've met their one farm quota. They've preserved the Wagner dairy farm. I can't say that it's really preserved because there's no cows and its just hayfields. Yeah sure they have a community garden there. But why have a community garden for a town where everyone has a yard?

In the past few weeks, I've seen another old house and farm bite the dust. Nevermind the wooded lots across the street that are being developed with McMansions as we speak. Then there's Kim Labno's old house, which was clobbered and about to be rebuilt with I don't even want to know how many McMansions. And their idea of green acres is to create soccer, baseball, and football fields. If I still lived in that town, I'd be raising hell. I do realize that my job is dependent on development, but why can't the development be smart and in the right places rather than sprawl? And can we stop building McMansions and start building normal sized houses? I don't think any family should need a 4 car garage....well unless you're the Hudsons..but that's different.

There used to be another oldie time farm with junk all over the fields. It was owned by some old dude and when he died he willed to the town. He was not even cold in his grave when they started removing the junk and laying out the ballfields. I guess I just was so deprived as child because I didn't have a zillion ball fields around town. Of course these ballfields are no where near any schools or walking distance to any houses. Brilliant!

A few years ago I found the bagel eating sheep. When I approached the fence, they had in the past ran away but this time they thought I was the giver of bagels. This action was repeated this past early spring when the cutest little lamb ran up to the fence baaing it head off. Then it realized that I was not the bagel giver and ran away. Unfortunately I was so camera phone ignorant, I didn't realize I need to save the pictures each time.

So bagel eating sheep, I hope you are at greener pastures where there's ample bagels...or at least something yummy to eat. Let me know when I can come visit.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I hurt the ozone layer today

I hurt the ozone layer yesterday. One of the hoses on my VW Golf's A/C went kaputt. Each time I turned on the A/C it looked like I had a smoke machine under the hood. The fumes were horrible and it gave me such a headache. I managed to get home and even when shut off, you could hear the freon escaping like crazy. Pretty scary. Thank goodness it wasn't the compressor because that would have cost me way too much to fix it. Mind you I was just in the shop to get an oil change on monday. I hope next week is better.

All this went down the same time Manhattan was having it's own steam debacle. It looked Manhattan was being transformed into Yellowstone National Park. All this just reinforces that you have to be ready for anything at any time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Unauthorized blood donation

I was out today in Warren-tucky aka Warren County, NJ. It was a small site so I thought we would be done real quick with relatively little effort. Not the case. First off it's a white trash autobody place and there are dozens of abandoned vehicles everywhere. Half of which are mostly full of garbage. I even spotted a dead rat in a puddle next to a car. They have been filling wetlands to create a place to park these gems, which is a violation of the wetland rules. And they are using chunks of asphalt, concrete bits, broken up gravestones, and just plain junk to build up the land. Add a dense cover of prickers and weeds taller than me. Now add some light rain so everything is real slick. So walking around is real challenging because the ground is so uneven and slippery, and you can't see where you are going. The wetlands are no better and just a jungle of prickers and other dense shrubs. If that isn't enough fun, now throw in swarms of mosquitoes that are dying for blood. When they get fierce they try to go in your eyes, ears, nose, etc. I wish I had my headnet with me. Alas I left it in the truck.

This van is not from this place but I saw it someplace else. I can't even imagine the glare all that paper throws on the windshield but I guess they can't live without all that crap.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The green state

I got a much needed escape from NJ this weekend. I was up in Vermont enjoying the cool air, plentiful stars, and all what makes VT great. I was with a bunch of friends and their dogs where the dogs almost outnumbered the people. It was a weekend of relaxation, drinking, naitch, and watching dogs form a pack and going back to nature. I'd be happy just to watch these three dogs, who are tied to each other, just wander around without a human providing guidance and order.

There's a man-made pond at the house and it choke full of critters. The spring peepers were peeping during the humid nights/mornings and green frogs make their "twang" call almost 24/7. I think there was a handful of bullfrogs as well since there were several very beefy tadpoles in the pond. Plus the periodic bull frog call could be heard. Here's a green frog at the surface after Asta, the black lab, went frogging. I think once Asta makes it muddy along the edge, they can't breathe so they pop to the surface. Just a theory. Asta is obsessed with the pond and she would spend all day there if she could. She never catches anything since she never seems to focus on them and when she does spot one, she not ready to commit to swim after them.
I found a ton of red-spotted newts. They have a red eft stage where they turn orange/red and like to hang out on the land. We found them on the driveway after a torrential downpour the last morning. The olive colored stage of the red-spotted newts likes to chill out in the water. We went for a hike up to the beaver pond. It's a steep hike and the dogs were so eager it was easy for them to pull you down when you descend. Asta found something along the edge of the trail. I managed to get this toad away from her. I think it's an American toad but the toads are tough to deciper.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do owls scare ground hogs?

That's what one person was trying to find out when they stumbled upon my blog? My answer would be no....especially not this groundhog. Generally critters are afraid of their predators and owls are way too puny to take out a fatty groundhog.

Nature's free laundry pre-wash

Late afternoon at work, the heavens opened up and dumped buckets of rain. Usually these storms are quick but this one lasted at least 30 minutes. Streams and lakes were created in the parking lot. So I waited until it was mostly over before venturing umbrella-less to my car. All went well for the drive home. Then I needed to stop to pick up a few things at the supermarket. Fatal error. The heavens opened again but I had my umbrella. I made it into the store ok. The storm carried on for at least 20 minutes. Then it was time to leave. Umbrella-less people were congregating in front of the store under the overhang. But I knew it could be awhile. I made it to the car and got my pants wet halfway up my calf since the parking lot was a lake. Then came the predicament of shoving groceries and purse in the car and attempting to close the umbrella during a deluge. Pants are now wet up to the knees. I knew my next battle was checking the mail. I decided to park my car in the garage and venture grocery and purse-less to the mailbox. I got my 2 pieces of crap in the mail and went back to the garage to gather my belongings. My pants are now wet up past the knee. I now see the gutters are past capacity and it's Niagara Falls at my steps. Then I make it to safety. Unfortunately, my pants are now completely soaked. Well at least I'm home. Hope everyone else managed to avoid this doubleshot.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dog days of summer

I've had my fair share of field days during the dog days of summer. I think the hot days of NJ are far worse than the hot days of CA. At least in CA, it wasn't as humid. Granted it was like 100+ degrees, but you could hop from tree to tree. In NJ, when it's hot and you are working hard, it's just brutal. Just as soon as you wipe the sweat from your face, it's starting dripping immediately. Your face turns beet red and you become real stupid and irritable. Then cue the dehydration headache that comes when you get home.

The past couple years I've managed to avoid the real hot days. Like 2 years ago, when our company was working on Staten Italy. The site was huge and there were no trees for shade. There were out a bunch of days in a row during a heat wave of 95+ F. I wouldn't have survived and they knew it because I was never out there. There were four guys and the pairs took 30 minutes shifts. The off 30 minutes was spent in the air conditioned truck. They were sweating so bad that they got poison ivy everywhere since it bled through their clothes.

As anyone who's lived in Brumfus can tell you, the days of summer there are unreal. I lived in a house where the candles in the 3rd floor melted during the day. You know it's bad when as a sleep obsessed college student you wake up at 8 am because it's too hot. Or you take a shower at night and don't dry off but just jump into bed hoping to cool down enough to fall asleep.

I'm really looking forward to the break in this heat wave. The ozone is starting to get to me. If you have that random tickle in your chest that makes you want to cough, it's the ozone. I just love that thunderstorm that comes through and cools everything down. The steam rises from the pavement and all is well again.